Sometimes you may be eating best foods but due to wrong combination these become harmful to us rather than beneficial. Hence it is desirable that one should understand the laws of food combination and their scientific basis.
When one eats an incompatible combination foods, nature flashes a distress signal in the form of a belch (this also happens when one overheats). We should learn to heed this little warning of nature. In case one doesn’t heed this warning and continues overeating and taking wrong combinations of foods, then following disorders may immediately follow:
- Loose motion or diarrhoea
- Indigestion of some foods which may be found in stools
Acid and other waste products of protein indigestion and putrefaction are easily identified in the urine. Scientifically they belong to the group of phenyls, skatoles, indoxyl-sulphuric acids, uric acid and toxic amines. Often they are eliminated vicariously through the mucous membranes or by diffusion into the spinal fluid.
Below are given some laws for right and wrong food combinations.
1. Milk shouldn’t be combined with any other food. It should be taken alone
Milk never combines well with any other food. Milk is a complete and concentrated food in itself. It requires full digestive process of its own kind. Mo other concentrated food like meat, eggs, cereals, pulses, nuts, roots or fruits should be eaten with it. Milk is a totally different protein than other concentrated proteins like meat, eggs, nuts, etc. Milk doesn’t digest in stomach but in duodenum hence in the presence of milk, stomach doesn’t respond with its secretion. Milk prevents insalivation also, creating problems for digestion of starchy foods. Further being liquid, it can’t go efficiently with any other food. This prevent the digestion of other foods taken along with milk. One should eat solid food and take milk separately.
Due to its fat and protein contents, on reaching the stomach, milk coagulates to form curd. This curd tends to gather around the particles of the other foods in the stomach thus insulating them against the gastric juices. This prevents their digestion until the milk curd is digested.
Combination of milk with other foods is one of the major causes of indigestion.
See also : Diseases and foods to avoid
2. Starches and proteins shouldn’t be taken together
All starches are digested in an alkaline media. But proteins are digested in acid media. When starches after mixing with salivary enzymes in the mouth, pause on to stomach with the proteins, heavy hydrochloric acid is poured out from the stomach to digest protein and starch digestion comes to an abrupt halt. Starches are forced to remain in the stomach until protein digestion is completed. By the time it reaches small intestine without full digestion it is already fermented due to long retainment in stomach. This great amount of undigested starches are found in stool.
It is not starch only that remains undigested but protein also remains undigested. The acid and alkali both contrast and neutralize each other inhibiting the digestive process of starch and protein.
If at all, you have to eat starches and proteins together, eat protein first and after 20-30 minutes follow the starch so that starch digestion doesn’t come to complete halt in stomach. But nevertheless it is not an ideal combination.
From this angle roti-dal, rice with milk (Kheer), rice with fish, egg with bread, roti or rice and meat etc., are not ideal combinations. But it has been observed that since centuries we have been taking such combinations, our digestive system can well tolerate these combinations without any untoward effect. However, carbohydrates and proteins both can be eaten separately with vegetables liberally. From this angle Chapati eaten with cooked vegetables, Sprouts (proteins) taken with vegetable salad, Boiled potato (starch) taken with vegetable salad are good combinations.
3. Fruits and sugars shouldn’t be combined with other solid foods, they should be taken alone
All sugars e.g., white sugar, syrup, jaggery, sweet fruit, honey etc., taken with protein, starches and fats hinder their digestion. Sugars undergo practically no digestion in mouth and stomach. They are primarily digested in the intestines. If taken alone, they are not held in the stomach for long but are quickly sent into the intestine. When eaten with other foods, either protein or starches or fats, they are held up in the stomach for a prolonged period awaiting the digestion of other foods and undergo fermentation. Fruits and sugar as a law, ferment with all solid foods and milk. Sugar is an acidic food. The fermentation of the sugar leads to further multiplication of the problems like acidity and indigestion.
If at all it is required to eat sweet things with other foods, it is preferable to eat sweet thing sometime before the solid food is taken.
From this angle all those items in which sugar is mixed e.g., sweet curd, sweet lassi, sweet milk, ice-cream, kheer, sweet milk are not desirable.
4. Proteins shouldn’t be taken along with acid or sour foods
Fruit acids (or any other acid like drug acids) interfere in gastric digestion of proteins either by destroying the pepsin or by inhibiting hydrochloric acid secretion. Gastric juices are not poured out in the presence of acidic or sour foods in the stomach. This seriously hinders protein digestion and-this results in putrefaction.
Acid fruits are: Lemons, grapes, oranges, plums, prunes, strawerry, Blackberry, malta, pineapples, pomegranates, tomato, tamarind etc. Since curd is also acidic in nature so it should also be avoided taking with ‘Dal’ etc. From this angle, sprinkling lemon in cooked pulse (or Dal) is also not a good practice.
5. Don’t take different kinds of proteins at the same time
Two proteins of different characters and different compositions call for different modifications of the digestive secretions and different timings of secretions in order to digest them efficiently. For example, the strongest juices are poured out upon milk in the last hours of digestion while in case of flesh, it is in the first hour of digestion. Similarly eggs receive the strongest secretion at a different time compared to that received by either flesh or milk. It is impossible to meet the requirement of two different proteins at the same meal. Two kinds of flesh or nuts or pulses may be taken together but not with totally different protein group. For example nuts can be eaten with different nuts and flesh with different flesh.
From this angle ‘Kadhi’, ‘Dahi vada’, cheese omelette, paneer pakora, milk and nut-kheer are not ideal combinations. To conclude, take one concentrated protein at a meal otherwise indigestion of proteins may result.
6. Combination of curd with foods
Curd shouldn’t be taken with
- Starches (cereals like wheat, rice, potatoes, sago etc.)
- Proteins (nuts, legumes, beans, meat, fish, egg etc.)
- Sugars (white sugar, fruits, syrup and honey)
However, curd can be taken with raw and cooked vegetables. From this angle curd can be mixed in salad. Curd taken alone and without anything mixed in it is best.
7. Salt shouldn’t be mixed in ‘Salad’
This is because salt leaches water from salad which comes out along with nutrients. Thus salad loses its full benefits.
8. Carbohydrates shouldn’t be taken with acid or sour fruits
This is because the sour or acid fruits deactivate the action of saliva which is necessary for digestion of carbohydrates. List of sour or acid fruits is already given in point no.4. Since curd is also acidic in nature so it should also be avoided taking with carbohydrates.
9. Avoid eating Acid fruits with sweet fruits
Acid fruits slow down the quick digestion of the sugars of sweet fruits leading to fermentation. Examples of sweet fruits are banana, papaya, dates, figs, sugarcane, chikoos, raisin, sweet berry etc. However, acid fruits can be taken or mixed with vegetable/salad. According to this, sprinkling ‘Neembu’ (lemon) over salad and taking tomato in salad is perfectly O.K.
10. Avoid eating fats with proteins
Fat depresses the action of the gestic glands and inhibits the release of proper gastric juices which are required for protein digestion. It lowers entire digestive tone by more than 50%. Fat insulated foods remain for long time in digestive process demanding overactivity and strain. Heated and fried fats are more dangerous.
This is the reason why dairy products don’t digest as quickly as other protein foods because these foods contain enough fat to inhibit gastric secretions for a longer time and so they have delayed digestion. From this consideration putting too much ghee in ‘Dal’ or frying ‘Dal’ in ghee is not a very good practice. Unlike proteins, combination of carbohydrates with fats is tolerable. Hence a little ‘ghee’ applied on ‘roti’ during eating and taking bread butter as breakfast snack is acceptable.
11. Don’t combine tea, coffee, alcohol and soft drinks with solid foods
These beverages severely restrict the proper gastric secretions and therefore the normal digestion is hindered.
12. Some miscellaneous recommendations
i. Don’t take pulpy and juicy fruits together,
ii. Don’t take sugar or sweets with sweet fruits,
iii. Don’t take fruits and vegetables together.
iv. Water shouldn’t be drunk after eating cucumber, watermelon and Papaya.
v. Milk and curd shouldn’t be taken together,
vi. Milk shouldn’t be taken after eating radish.
vii. Water shouldn’t be drunk immediately after taking rice. It may lead to coughing.
Foods to be consumed alone
1. Milk: It is already explained earlier.
2. Melons: Melons (‘Kharbooja’, Tarbooj’) digest quickly than other foods and may ferment even with fruits sometimes. Being sweet fruits, they can be occasionally tolerated with sweet fruits but not with acid and sour fruits.
3. Liquids: As a law, no liquid should be taken with solids. Liquid tends to pass away immediately into the intestines taking away all the digestive enzymes thus inhibiting the digestion.
Liquids should be taken at least 20 minutes prior to meal and not immediately after or along with meal but can be taken one hour after meal.
4. Fruits: should be taken alone and at least half an hour before meal but never with or immediately after meals. Reason is already explained at relevant place.
5. Sugars: All sugary products like sweets, sugary drinks and beverages should be taken alone preferably 30 minutes before the meals but shouldn’t be taken with or immediately after meals.
6. Fruit juices: All fruit juices are passed faster than fruits into the intestine. Its stagnation with solids leads to their fermentation. Hence they should be taken alone.
7. Acid fruits: As already explained acid fruits retard protein and starch digestion and will also ferment when taken with solid foods because of delayed absorption. Hence they should be taken alone on empty stomach. However, they can be taken before meal with salad and vegetables but should be avoided with sweet fruits.
8. Milk products: Like milk, various milk products e.g. Yoghurt/curd, Ice cream, Rabri, Kulfi, Lassi, Buttermilk should also be consumed alone.
Tolerable combination of foods
Please note that what is given in this chapter is ideal combinations of foods. But it has been observed over years of experience that there are some combinations, which although not ideal, can be tolerated by our digestive system without any untoward effect on our health provided our digestive system is not weak or diseased. Some of such combinations are listed as follows.
1. Cereals + Pulses e.g. Roti + Dal, Rice + Dal
2. Cereals + Buttermilk or curd
3. Kheer (Rice + Milk)
4. Rice with fish, egg cury, meat
5. Bread + Egg omelette
6. Kadhi, Dahi vada
7. Ghee with Dal
8. Lemon + Sprout, Tomato + Sprouts
9. Sweet fruits + Acid fruits
10. Melons + Sweet fruits
11. Egg + Milk
12. Nuts + Milk
13. Milk + Bread sandwich
14. Banana + Milk
15. Mango + Milk
16. Jelebi + Milk
17. Curd + Rice
18. Curd + Banana
You can also make any number of such tolerable combination depending on your own experience with them. I may also inform the readers that all these theories of food combination are under continuous research and no final words with a rigid stand can be said about them. Intellectuals may further probe in these areas taking the matter of this chapter as some sort of reference or rough guidelines.
Four most important points to improve your digestion
1. Eat only when you are hungry. Body can tolerate even wrong combination of foods in strong genuine hunger.
2. Strengthen your digestive system by various exercises etc. Strong digestive system can easily tolerate occasional wrong combination of foods taken.
3. Take one type of food or lesser varieties of food at a time. More variety of food puts great strain on digestive system since body can handle one food at a time more smoothly. It has no provision to secrete many juices and digest different foods at one time. Hence many variety of foods taken at a time result in delayed, imperfect digestion and fermentation and putrefaction.
4. Consume natural live raw foods to the maximum (e.g., fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts etc.)
Various Factors that Can Lessen the Effects of Bad Food Combinations
- A strong digestive fire (if we are so blessed) can be the most powerful tool of all to deal with “bad” food combinations.
- Different quantities of each food involved in a combination can sometimes help significantly. For instance equal quantities by weight of ghee and honey are a bad combination-ghee is cooling, but honey is heating-whereas mixing a 2:1 ratio is not toxic. The reason? Prahbav, the unexplainable.
- Very often spices and herbs are added in Ayurvedic cooking to help make foods compatible or to ease a powerful effect, e.g. cooling cilantro in very spicy food.
- If our bodies have become accustomed to a certain food combination through many years of use, such as eating cheese with apples, then it is likely that our body has made some adaptation or become accustomed to this. Which is not to say that we should continue this practice, but to explain why the newcomer to apples and cheese may experience a strong case of indigestion whilst the “old-timer” digests it adequately.
- Antidotes, like cardamom in coffee, or ghee and black pepper with potatoes, often can help alleviate some of the negative effects. (Coffee is stimulating and ultimately depressing to the system, and potatoes cause gas).
If foods with different and possibly aggravating qualities, such as a mixture of vegetables, are cooked together in the same pot, the foods tend to learn how to get along. Using appropriate spices and herbs helps with this too.
Eating a ‘bad’ combination occasionally usually does not upset the digestion too much.
Some Useful Tips To Aid Digestion
Eat ½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger with a pinch of rock salt before each meal to stimulate agni. Salt also aids digestion, and helps to retain water. Alkalis help digestion and regulate gastric fire. Ghee stimulates agni and improves digestion. Small sips of warm water during a meal will aid digestion and absorption of food. Do not drink iced water as it slows agni and digestion. Indeed ice water should not be taken under most circumstances, as it is too shocking to the system.
Proper chewing is essential to good digestion, ensuring food gets thoroughly mixed with saliva.
A cup of lassi at the end of a meal also aids the digestive process. Make by blending ¼ cup yogurt with 2 pinches of ginger & cumin powder in 1 cup water.
Ideally, one should fill the stomach with one-third food, one-third liquid and one-third should be empty.